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Kiddie Integrity

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Seriously, I hate your kid.

I don't know what these modern children watch (Laguna Beach? To Catch a Predator?), but back in my day, Nickelodeon's golden years, it was all Hey Dude all the time. The half-hour sitcom follows the antics of a bunch of cowboy teens working on the Bar None Dude Ranch. There's prissy Brad, hot Ted, nice Melody, Danny the Indian, and a few others, and they got in and out of trouble for 65 weeks from 1989 to 1991 (available now on shady, probably pirated DVD).

Hey Dude is mostly comedy, with a totally satisfying love triangle, and a healthy dose of drama (sometimes a horse will die, or Danny will have to choose between his job and his spiritual Indian ways). The Bar None is owned by one Mr. Ernst, a bumbling ex-accountant from New Jersey with Wild West delusions. Many of the episodes have to do with Mr. Ernst's heee-larious publicity schemes, like turning Arizona into a giant lawn with Ernst's Miracle Desert Sod. Or selling Bar None bowler hats. Or wrestling Captain Lou Albano.

One of my favorite things about Hey Dude (besides Captain Lou) is all the excellent fuss made over Danny's Hopi heritage. For example, when the ranch's well dries up, Ted suggests, "You can do a Rain Dance! You're an Indian! It's natural for you!" Aaaaaaawkward! Another time, an evil archaeologist discovers an "ancient Indian burial ground," and Danny totally steals the bones of his ancestors and re-buries them. Righteous! And did you know that you can get an Indian to do what you want if you trick him into thinking the Great Spirits are angry? Fact!

I was planning to just make fun of Hey Dude—how the point of the show is mostly to find different reasons for Mr. Ernst to fall in the water trough (not totally untrue: I've been keeping a water-trough tally, and it's in the 20s). But you know what? I sincerely, warmly, un-ironically love Hey Dude. And as I was watching it, I started to realize all the ways it changed me. I learned not to leave my friend blindfolded with a broken compass near an abandoned mineshaft in the desert. I learned that if you tickle a girl, she will tell you her best friend's most embarrassing secret. I learned that Indians are hella wise. I learned a lot about the comedic potential of amnesia.

But in all seriousness, when I really think about it, I learned that lying will ruin everything; girls can pay the check and boys can clear the table; sometimes mean people are just sad; and that you have to honor your responsibilities, even if it means leaving the totally fun ranch where all your friends work and going back to summer school. And maybe I'm still kind of a judgmental, irresponsible liar, but at least I'm not some entitled, half-naked, dead-inside Laguna Beach asshole, like your kids are going to be. Seriously, put Hey Dude on now. Maybe there's still time.

 

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